WASHINGTON, April 8, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
It took Team USA’s Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock the entire match for them to break the serve of Belgium’s Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen. However, it happened at a very good time for the Americans – at the conclusion of the fourth set – and the United States clinched its Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal tie against Belgium with a hard-fought but satisfying doubles rubber win in Nashville, Tennessee, Saturday night. It gave the Americans an insurmountable 3-0 advantage against the Belgians.
Harrison and Sock prevailed over Gille and Vliegen, 5-7, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3), 6-4, in front of another enthusiastic, mostly-American crowd of about 5,000 inside Curb Events Center on the campus of Belmont University. The victory lifted the United States into the Davis Cup semifinal round for the first time since 2012.
Belgians Gille and Vliegen, both former U.S. collegiate players, were making their Davis Cup debut – and they put up a good fight throughout the entirety of the three-hour match. However, the more-experienced Harrison and Sock ultimately were too formidable of an opponent. They knew their role, the performed their duty – and they succeeded.
At a set each and with Sock serving, the Americans took advantage of a forehand error by Gille in the third set tie-break that gave them a two sets-to-one lead over the Belgians. Then, both nations stayed on serve through the first nine games of the decisive fourth set. Finally, the United States broke Belgium’s serve for the first time in eight tries – Gille hit an inside out forehand into the net – that ended the match in favor of the Americans. Team USA’s victory celebration began as Harrison hoisted an American flag and took a celebratory lap along with the rest of his teammates around the perimeter of the arena floor.
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) 8. April 2018
“It feels great and my partner was awesome,” said Harrison during an on-court interview, in describing the feeling of an American victory, standing alongside Sock, his doubles partner. “We have a great team with a lot of options that can pull us through. We all did our part.”
The United States followed a similar pattern this weekend against Belgium as it did during its first-round tie against Serbia in February. The Americans took a 2-0 advantage after the first day’s singles rubbers. Then, they clinched the tie by winning the pivotal doubles rubber, which makes the Sunday reverse singles meaningless.
“It wasn’t easy. Gilles and Vliegen played an awesome brand of doubles,” said United States team captain Jim Courier on court afterward. “We had to go to the well to beat them. Davis Cup is about representing, it’s about showing up, it’s about passion, it’s about execution. Our team did all of that against a competitive Belgium team in all three matches.”
Later, Courier added, “We’re fortunate, we’re happy and we’re looking forward to an opportunity in the semifinals.”
Meanwhile, despite playing without its two top players, David Goffin and Steve Darcis, Belgium put up a good fight against the Americans. “You’re always disappointed that you lose,” said Belgian team captain Johan Van Herck in a post-match interview with the media. “We had some chances in every match. I’m not going to say that we should have won here, but maybe we could have had a set more and then you never know what happens.
“In that way, yes, we are disappointed. The other way I think we can be proud of the matches we put in, the effort we gave, the level we got, and that’s also important and for these guys encourages for the future.”
Next, the United States will face either Croatia or Kazakhstan on the road in September following the U.S. Open.
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.